22.04.2022 Step 1: Getting Started / Staff

Try to find some allies and see where this leads you!

Nikita Gerritsen & Abi Ashton & Shaaron Leverment

Pioneers organisations have explored in-depth the draft version on the DiverSci website; raised awareness, ignited action and scrutinised areas of their practice across Content, Partnerships, Access, Staff and Strategy. We thank them for their honest and open shared experiences during this pilot phase.

NIKITA GERRITSEN, Head of Education Zuiderzeemuseum, Enkhuizen, the Netherlands
-Originally published in SPOKES #73

The Zuiderzeemuseum is a Museum in Enkhuizen that brings stories of the people who once lived on the shores of the Zuiderzee to life. The Zuiderzeemuseum focuses on the history, current situation and future of the region. Themes such as water, crafts and communities occupy centre stage. These stories are visualised in the Outdoor Museum with its historic buildings, and in the Indoor Museum through thematic exhibitions.The museum has around 283,000 visitors a year (in a normal year), 20 full-time employees working in the museum, close to 299 volunteers and was founded in 1984.

Where did the motivation come from to join the Pioneers?
For the Zuiderzeemuseum the team leaders of the Presentation & Education team were advocates on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). They did some projects, like setting up a cooperation with the local refugee centre, but this was often a single project and did not lead to any big or long-term changes in the organisation. Looking for a way to start a movement within the organisation they joined the pioneering process when VSC asked if they were interested. But as we are not located near any big cities the urgency to address this topic within the organisation was not always clear to everyone.


Did you have any specific aspirations or target audiences you wanted to impact?
Physical access is a point of interest, as our museum is an open air museum with some difficulties in that area. Also, people from different cultural backgrounds are not represented much within the museum, both in the organisation as well as in visitors. Followed by the question about the demographics in the area.

As a Pioneer, Zuiderzeemuseum was known for reaching across a wide range of staff. How did you achieve this? We first took a dive into the website, which was very interesting, but it was difficult to know where to take action first. It was very hard to decide where to start. There are so many things to do and to think of. It can get overwhelming.

Then one of the other pioneers did the ‘Spark’ conversations workshop and was positive about that. We tried out the Spark conversations workshop, led by Sanne from VSC, with our Presentation & Education department. This was very interesting and gave us a lot of insights, food for thought AND started a movement in thinking and working with all colleagues. It started awareness. After that we decided to do the workshop with all departments from the museum. Led by us (Femke – Sectormanager Presentations & Education, and Nikita – Head of Education) it was now not only the usual suspects (education, programming, marketing departments) represented in these sessions, but also the volunteers, technical department, security and so on.

Was it challenging to get everyone involved?
The workshop with the technical department was a bit more challenging. We did it online like the other ones because of Covid regulations. The language and examples in the workshop were not so appropriate for this department (questions about board-members and so on). It was also more difficult to take the discomfort away online, so we therefore decided that the group of volunteers and some other departments would not be done online but face-to-face. We also changed and rephrased some of the questions and examples to make sure that everybody could join in on the conversations.

We did over eight Spark workshops in the organisation. There was great value in discussing DEI and hearing the opinions and ideas of ALL people in the organisation.

Almost everyone in the organisation is now involved and we see that we have sparked some changes in their ways of thinking and working. We notice that people in the organisation start thinking on DEI in their daily work, like the people working on the boats are opening up about the possibility of entering the boats on a wheelchair, and asking to make hand-outs of our audio guide on the boat for people with hearing problems so that they can read this information. These people will now keep us moving forward.

What have you found to be the most valuable part of being a Pioneer?
Sharing our experiences and hearing experiences of other museums. The conversations with everyone involved – especially the other pioneers – keeps us moving forward. For example, one of the bigger organisations told us how long it has been taking them to take some of the steps and that is reassuring. We are still at the beginning and we do not have to get it all right at once.

We have joined ‘Samen Inclusief’, a long-term collaboration with VSC and eight other science museums that keeps DEI on our agenda. We learn a lot from each other’s experiences and keep each other motivated. These experiences can be small things or details: how to start a working group on DEI in your organisation. How to work with reflection groups, how to decide what your target audience is when working on DEI. Feeling confident to make small steps even when this may seem or feel like tokenism.

We also started a working group on DEI, and our director followed a training on inclusive leadership. The time seems right for this movement now, we have to make use of the momentum and flow we have now. But we realise it will never be completely done.


If you could travel back in time, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Just start the conversation on DEI in your organisation, try to find some allies and see where this leads you. Don’t think you have to be perfect straight away, but make a START!